Harvest Public Media

Harvest Public Media is a reporting collaboration focused on issues of food, fuel and field. Based at KCUR in Kansas City, Missouri, Harvest covers agriculture-related topics through a network of reporters and partner stations throughout the Midwest.

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Plenty of younger people are eager to build careers in farming, but more land up for grabs won’t necessarily make it easier to get started. Access to land and capital are two of the biggest hurdles facing first-generation farmers today, and some say they face an extra barrier to both — student loan debt.

With lawmakers and President Biden mulling the merits of canceling some debt, farmers and advocates say loan forgiveness could make it easier for millennial farmers to build their businesses.

Some states are saying they won’t use Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine to immunize vulnerable, harder-to-reach populations, including agriculture workers, over concerns about equity and perceptions of how well it protects against COVID-19. 

Donald Trump won two-thirds of the vote in rural areas in the last two presidential elections — highlighting what some see as a growing divide between rural and urban America.

Now, a Washington, D.C., based think tank suggests the Biden administration look to expand broadband internet access in rural areas to help bridge the economic divide.

Despite COVID-19 risks and high unemployment rates last year, employers wanted to fill more jobs filled with H-2A guest workers in 2020.

Usually, high unemployment rates decrease the demand for H-2A workers. Diane Charlton, a professor of agricultural economics at Montana State University, says a 1% increase in a state’s unemployment rate is associated with a 5% decrease in demand for H-2A workers, according to a recent study. She says that trend didn't hold up in 2020. 

In October, Purdue University’s Ag Economy Barometer recorded its highest-ever index, meaning farmers were at an all-time high level of optimism.

However, that number dropped off significantly in November, due in large part to the presidential election.

Balance sheets for farms may look better at the end of 2020 than they have in years. That’s according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest forecast

Some expenses have been lower this year, like diesel to power farm equipment, interest on bank loans and livestock. 

Many families are heeding the advice of health officials and inviting fewer people to Thanksgiving dinner. The trend has hurt turkey sales, especially for national producers.

But small organic and free-range turkey farmers may be faring better because of a loyal customer base that may be sticking closer to home than usual.

As the new school year gets underway, some students are in classrooms and others are at home but one thing is now clear: all kids can get free school meals. That’s because the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program and the Summer Food Service Program, has extended the pandemic provisions it introduced last spring, which include eliminating the requirement that families apply for reduced-fees or free meals. 

Farmers were expected to produce a record corn and soybean harvest this year, but after weeks of poor weather across the region, the USDA has officially walked back those predictions.

 

The number of families experiencing food insecurity has hit a record due to the pandemic, and Black and Hispanic families are disproportionately affected.

 

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